The chairman of Antioch’s planning commission is catching a lot of scorn for suggesting in a Facebook post that society should adopt a herd mentality by letting the coronavirus take nature’s course and kill the weak, elderly, homeless and others.

In a long post April 23 on Facebook, commission Chairman Ken Turnage II compared the spread of COVID-19 to a forest fire that burns off all the “old trees, fallen brush and scrub-shrub sucklings” that drain resources. The nation and planet “would strengthen when this is all settled,” he surmised.

“We would have significant loss of life, we would lose many elderly, that would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System, health care cost (once the wave subsided), make jobs available for others and it would also free up housing in which we are in dire need of,” Turnage wrote. “We would lose a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs, and housing.”

The comments offended many people, including City Councilwoman Monica Wilson, who along with several residents called for Turnage’s resignation during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. They also drew some support.

“Except we are not trees, and dead human beings do not fertilize the living,” one person commented on Turnage’s Facebook post. “This is very callous and sad. Even still, I hope you and yours survive this, just as I hope we all do.”

“This was a favored position of the Nazis,” another wrote. “Getting rid of the ‘useless eaters’ they called it. Before the Nazis went after the Jews and Gypsies and the Polish they decided it would be a good idea to get rid of the useless eaters: the old, demented, disabled, mentally ill, physically ill and institutionalized.”

Others stuck up for Turnage: “See Ken when you go against the progressive talking points they cone after you,” one wrote. “Next they will try to shut your business down if you do not tow the line of the progressives. They make lying hit pieces on you. This is your communist progressives and they need to be stopped.”

Councilwoman Wilson said Turnage’s comments “undermine the great work our city is doing to protect our citizens,” noting that lifting shelter-in-place orders just for the benefit of the economy is “contrary to our shared values.”

“My ancestors already died for the sake of our economy in a time called slavery,” said Wilson, who is black. “He is entitled to his opinion as I am to mine. However, as a member of the Planning Commission, his words are merely not consistent with what we are doing and how we are caring for our citizens.”

Wilson added that Turnage’s words do not reflect the values of the City Council or city administration, which will continue working with Contra Costa County public health officials to do what’s best to keep residents safe.

“Personally, I find his words disgusting, inappropriate, and extremely reckless. We do not have any place in public discourse for that,” Wilson said. She also chastised her council colleagues for not having responded earlier to his post.

“We value everyone’s life with dignity and respect no matter who they are in Antioch,” she said. “It took me a few days to really sit back and figure out what I want to say because I am so disgusted by this. Either he resigns or we as a council need to deal with that and take him off that commission.”

Reached after the meeting, Turnage, 47, said he has no intention of stepping down. The Antioch native is a general contractor who owns K2GC Inc. and ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2016, finishing fourth. He was Antioch’s 2015 “Citizen of the Year with Most Impact.”

He said his post was “not malicious, or racist” and had “nothing to do with money or business.” Rather, he was simply stating what he believed was happening to the Earth through the global pandemic.

Councilman Lamar Thorpe meanwhile said he shared Wilson’s concerns and called Turnage’s comments “inexcusable.”

Mayor Sean Wright, who appointed Turnage in 2017, called the commissioner’s comments “abhorrent,” though he noted everyone has a right to speak his mind.

“We do and need to hold ourselves to high standards as councilmen and commissioners who represent the city, so there is a discussion to be had as far as that goes,” he added.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts agreed that city leaders need to “act with professionalism.”

“It’s absurd to think that one person’s life is more valuable than another’s,” she said. “I am sure this staff and this City Council is doing everything it can do to save as many lives as it possibly can.”

Turnage later said his comments were misunderstood.

“I believe in ecological balance,” he said. “Our species is out of symbiosis with the rest of the planet. We have a disease  … a virus, that if it ran its course, it would bring us back into a closer balance. I didn’t say people should go out and get infected.

“It’s our world’s way of balancing itself. It’s like a volcano going off,” he added. “It brings the temperature of the Earth down.”

Turnage also said that while he does value life, he does not do so over the greater good of the planet, country and species. He noted that if unchecked, the virus would run rampant through the homeless community.

“I’m not saying let’s kill the homeless, but because of what this virus is attacking, these are the sectors that it would affect the most. … I’m sorry but that would be one of the side effects,” he said. “Yes, that’s a harsh way of looking at it — I know people aren’t going to like this — but this is just reality.”

Although he disagrees with the need for sheltering in place, Turnage said he is honoring the order and does not encourage people to disobey the rules.

“People need to protect themselves,” he said. “… (But) it is my belief that when something is out of balance, there will be something that brings the balance back (possibly a virus) or the scales may tip and then there is no return.”

Reached Wednesday, Wilson said she stands by her call for Turnage to resign or for the council to consider ousting him.

“I am looking out for the best interests of everyone in my community,” she said. “Who is he to decide who lives or dies? “All of us are vulnerable at this time. We all need to look out for each other.

“You have a right to post, but sometimes there are consequences to what you post.”

Check back for updates.